The Five Stages of (Job) Loss
Updated: Jan 25
It goes without saying that losing a job can make us feel as though we have lost our livelihood, and our purpose. After all, our jobs aren’t always just our place of work – they can also be our hobby, a place where we make friends, and a place where we find our true passion.
As a result, the emotional and financial burden of losing a job is difficult to bear. But, no matter how you currently feel after losing your job, you might find it welcome news to learn that we all deal with the effects of loss in a very similar way.
Typically, there are five stages to loss. All of them are completely normal; some stages are easier than others; but the ultimate outcome is always the same – you can get through this.
It’s important to remember that these stages are not necessarily linear, and that we may move in and out of each one at different times. Nonetheless, you are likely to experience each of them, to some extent.
Below, we’ve highlighted the five stages of job loss, and what you can do to tackle each stage effectively.
#1 – Denial
This is the first stage of the grieving process. During this time, we go into shock and begin to question how we will cope.
Denial might sound like a scapegoat, but it’s actually just the mind’s way of allowing you to survive the loss and process the sudden change. That is why in the first stages of a job loss, we may feel numb, lost, hopeless, and everything can feel over-whelming.
During this time, it is important to let yourself grieve. That means doing whatever is necessary to be able to healthily cope with the pain.
That might include binge-watching your favourite TV show, reading a book, catching up with friends, or simply just taking time on your own to assess your situation and next steps.
Whatever you decide to do, don’t feel guilty about how you choose to spend your time – just do your best not to become reclusive and keep a good support network around you.
#2 – Anger
Once we begin to process our loss, the denial passes, and we progress to anger.
Anger is typically the emotion which we are most used to managing; however, it is an emotion we tend to suppress rather than allowing ourselves to feel. Because it is so far-reaching – we can aim it at inanimate objects, loved ones, ourselves - it offers temporary structure to the nothingness we feel in the beginning.
What’s important to bear in mind is, the more you allow yourself to feel your anger, the sooner it will dissipate. So, make sure you channel it!
When we feel angry it is a great opportunity to use the energy to keep us busy and keep our minds focussed in the most positive ways possible. After all, you want to ensure that your frustration doesn’t turn on yourself – or your loved ones.
It goes without saying that losing a job can make us feel as though we have lost our livelihood and our purpose. After all, our jobs aren’t always just our place of work – they can also be our hobby, a place where we make friends, and a place where we find our true passion.
Exercising is a great way to keep busy and lift your mood, as the release of endorphins will naturally helping you to burn away those pent-up frustrations. Even a brisk, 15-minute walk can really help.
#3 – Bargaining
Bargaining can be one of the most emotionally draining phases, as we are placed in a position of ‘what if?’. We start to try and find a way to end the pain with ultimatums, to offer something of ourselves to alleviate our grief.
We question whether we could have done something differently, or why we deserve to be in this situation, or how we got here. And it’s okay to ask these questions, as long as you utilise them in a positive way; it can be all too easy to focus on a negative, downwards spiral of self-query and regret.
Instead, when you find yourself pondering about the ‘what ifs’, sit and think about:
what you really liked and disliked about your job;
what you would have preferred to do differently in your career if you had the choice;
whether your job was primarily a source of income or something you enjoyed too.
By thinking about the above, you can start to unpick whether the job was truly for you in the first place, or whether it’s time for a change.
It’s not a quick fix, but listing the pros and cons of the job you lost could help you navigate your search for the next one in due time.
#4 – Depression
This can feel like the most deflating stage, as the reality of our situation truly starts to sink in. This is especially true if the job loss has presented financial worry.
With this stage, we can often become reclusive, turning inward and becoming less sociable and discouraged. The key here is to try to push through and stay as motivated as possible.
Firstly, you may find that sticking to a good routine helps; sleeping and rising at the same time each day; eating meals at regular intervals; taking a walk or making a phone call to a friend or family member once or twice a day.
Once you’re in a good routine of managing the day-to-day tasks, you will then feel more confident in starting to assess your next move. You could add job searching to your morning schedule, even if just for an hour or so, and then use the afternoon to update your CV or apply to ones you like the sound of.
Of course, if finances mean you need to push harder on the job front, then think about your skills and how they could apply to other roles. Initially, you may have to take on a role that isn’t something you’d anticipated before – but this could be the start of a new journey.
Above all, it’s important to do whatever you can to balance your financial and emotional needs.
#5 – Acceptance
When we come to acceptance, it does not mean that the loss or grief we have experienced has totally faded. Rather, we have adjusted to our new reality, and are ready to face up to it.
By listening to your feelings more acutely, you can begin to fully invest in yourself and place yourself in the best position to move forward.
This could mean taking on some training to transition into a new industry, signing up to a recruitment agency to assist you with your job hunt, or completely reinventing your CV to really make your skills and experience shine.
Whatever you choose to do, the experts at FAC3 are always on hand to assist you.